Little drummer boy.

My parents got divorced before before I can remember. I grew up with my mom, my sister, and my grandmother in a small New England town. All three of them were very intelligent, strong, and powerful women. Looking back I feel very fortunate to have been raised by such incredible role models. I also had a really awesome dad. He lived and worked about an hour away from us and was the athletic director / golf coach for a small college in Connecticut. In addition to his scheduled visits with my sister and I throughout the year, there was a very special time every spring that my dad and I spent together. It was the college spring break, and it included a trip to Myrtle Beach SC with his golf team. Imagine me as an 10 year old riding in a Connecticut state van packed with a bunch of rowdy, hyped up, college dudes going to Myrtle Beach for a week! I loved those trips.

Looking back, one of the most important lessons I learned during those times was to following your own path in life.

These summer trips consisted of a 13 hour ride to and from South Carolina, a week full of golfing, and staying the nights in some cheap hotel where we played cards and ate crappy take-out food. The guys that I remember most were not the best golfers or the guys who went to bed at my dad's curfew. I remember the ones that would stay up late playing poker with their food per-Diem money. There was drinking, cursing, talking about hooking up with the cart girls at the golf course... and occasionally, sneaking out to "call home" - code for smoking weed. Those are the guys that interested me the most. They didn't play by all my dad's rules and they were definitely having a good time living life! They spoke freely, treated me more like a buddy, and didn't give a shit about what other people thought. They weren't disrespectful or even cocky, they were just marching to their own beat. There was a confidence in their actions, a fearlessness in the way they approached life. Independent, genuine, and real. Those are the guys I admired.

As I've grown older, I remember back to those trips and the way the team interacted with each other, acted around my dad, and how they treated me. The teams were successful. They won several New England golf championships and for more then a decade they competed against the best NCAA division 1 schools from across the nation. They were legit. But more importantly to me, they taught me the value of being yourself. Being genuine, honest, and confident in who you are. They were 'real', and that shined through in their actions. Much like my business life today, what made those teams successful was the synchronization of several different types of individuals, led by a few people who had their own strong personal compass. There were the 'early to sleep, follow the rules' types, and there were the 'others'... I respected and looked up to all of them, but it was the guys marching to their own beat that I admired the most. They were diligent and focused on winning tournaments, but they also had a strong individual presence. They were the leaders on the team, not because they were the best golfers but because they were the most confident in character. They built the team culture. 

It's not about going against the grain or purposely being defiant to the rules of life. There are many times I look back and I'm thankful I didn't follow my gut and went with the crowd. But there are also those defining moments in my life when I chose a different path, a non-popular choice. I was true to myself and didn't care what the rest of the world thought of my choices... and it's in those moments that I felt the most alive. So, live passionately, take risks, give freely, love hard, and leave an incredible wake behind you...but most importantly live your own life and be your own individual. It's a beautiful thing, It attracts the right people into your life, and you will never regret your choices. Because although you'll still make mistakes, they will be your mistakes and not mistakes made while trying to be what other people want you to be.  

We are all doomed: That's a good thing.

by Michael Wilkinson. This post was written by my friend the 'Barbell Ninja', Michael Wilkinson. Mike is an accomplished weight lifter, a Navy veteran, and a badass CrossFitter. He currently lives in Raleigh NC where is completing his undergraduate degree at NC State and has recently been awarded a graduate level research project looking at performance and perception of weightlifters.

“Fear kills more dreams than failure ever could.”

That quote must be the realest shit of all time. I see people do this every day in nearly every situation— in school, the gym, whatever. They won’t take a class they’d enjoy because it might be too hard, or try a new sport because they think they won’t be good enough, or add another few kilos to the bar because their last lift was, “pretty heavy”. What are we afraid of? People let fear defeat them before failure even gets the chance.

I get it, I really do. Things can be very daunting. What if you did go for it? What if you went after your dreams with everything you had, and you still failed? Maybe you have failed in the past and the feeling stung so much that you never wanted to go at it again.

So here’s the real curve ball: The truth is, far better men and women than you or I have tried and failed at the same things. So if you’re hesitation is that you are worried about looking foolish to others, that distinction has already been taken. Join the ranks of those who dared greatly and take your turn ‘at bat’.  

And here’s the other kicker: When its over, we all end up in the same place. We’re all going to be pushing up daisies. So with that said, let me challenge you. Since our fates are ultimately sealed, instead of asking yourself, “why take the chance” or “why take a risk”, ask yourself, why not?!” What do we have to lose? What if you gambled on that one-in-a-million chance, and succeeded? Wouldn’t that success be worth putting all the risk, and fear, and anxiety to good use? Remember, we are ALL going down. Let’s go down swinging.

Back to my original question: What if you gave everything you had, and you still failed? Here’s the answer, and it’s simpler than you think. If what you seek doesn’t manifest itself today, chances are that you’ll get another ‘attempt’ tomorrow. The sun is going to come up again, and you will have the opportunity to get after it again, and again, and again. After all, don't you want to be a part of that sunrise?

Oh, by the way—ask that pretty girl out on a date. Same rules apply.

—nindʒʌ

What are you after in life? The illusion of success.

When I was in high school I remember my mom and teachers getting on me about good grades. I can remember the terror when they changed the process of bringing grades home from the easily manipulated 'child brings the report card home', to mailing report cards to my mom at the house (probably emailed directly these days). After the change I had to create an elaborate system to 'intercept' the mail and subvert the lectures and disappointment that was sure to come for getting a "C", or even worse from reading the comments at the bottom of the report card that outlined my "disruptive" behavior in class. But why all the stress? Why are grades even important? Back then I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it. I'm sure there was a mixture of personal pride, parental pressure, and just general societal expectations that created the need for "good grades". And of course there's this thing called 'college'. If you wanted to go to a "good" school you needed good grades. But why we do we go to college? I'm serious, really why? Have you ever really questioned why you went to college (assuming you did)? There are plenty of successful people who didn't go to college. And there are plenty of cultures around the globe where a higher education isn't a mainstream part of society. So why in the US, do we feel the pressure to get a college degree? To get a good job...? OK - that's the response I get most of the time. And the facts do support that having a higher education results in more and better employment. OK, so now you have a good job, but why stress and push yourself to do well in your job? Why strive for the promotion? Sure, you could argue that there is a natural type of competitive desire built into all of us. But isn't part (if not the majority) of your goal to earn more money? I'm sure there are other reasons built in, but I don't see anyone working hard to make less money. So it is usually the idea that hard work equals a promotion (more $), or taking on more responsibility (with the expectation of more $), or to be recognized by your peers and managers (which hopefully leads to more $), etc., etc., etc. And so the story goes on for most people in our society. There is always the 'next level'. It could be only for the financial gain, it could be for personal satisfaction, but in the end, we always keep the 'finish line' out in front of us, and usually it's tied to more money. Let's face it, I don't know anyone who wouldn't take more money, a pay increase, or increased equity in their company if it was offered to them.

A few years ago, the neighborhood kids that I've known since they where in middle school, were home from college with some friends. We were all out in my pool talking smack, telling jokes, and playing beer pong when one of the visiting guys said, "Whoa! Greg, you are "the MAN"! Look at this place, your house is awesome, you live on the ocean, have 3 cars, 2 wave runners, a boat!" They were in awe of my "set-up". And suddenly it hit me that, from the outside, I must LOOK super "successful". And the truth is, by most standards, I guess I am. I am extremely grateful and thankful for where I am in life. I worked my ass off to get here. But that is kinda of my point. In our society the goal is to work really hard and "be successful". I could appreciate the perspective of these college kids and where they were in life at that point. They were in college, stressing over exams, working towards those 'good grades', so they could get a good job, and then work for the promotion, and then buy a nice house, and then have a family, and then go on vacations, and then have kids, and then get a bigger house, and then the white picket fence, and so on and so on... In their minds, I was there. I had reached the goal, the 'end zone' that they envisioned for themselves. I was "successful". But in that brief moment, I realized something really scary. I personally didn't need or want anything "more". I didn't need, and more importantly I didn't WANT, any more money, more cars, more boats, more of anything. I stopped and thought about all the stress and effort in my life that it took me to get to where I was. I had put my head down somewhere early in life and followed our societies tacit drive to achieve 'more'. And now that I took a moment and looked up, the goal of being 'successful' was a little bit of a let down. All the sacrifices I made along the way, all the postponing of exciting and random opportunities in life so that I could go after the next hurdle, the next promotion, the next milestone toward being successful. And here I was sitting in my pool 'arrived'. It's a weird feeling not having the intense desire to gain more or get further in life financially. It forces you to really think about what are you really after in life. I had chased 'success' for so long that once 'achieved', it seemed empty. 

How much in enough? I've asked this question to corporate leadership candidates, family, personal friends, and even random strangers for the past 10 years. What amount of money would you need to earn each year for the rest of your life before you would never worry about money again? Everyone has a number. Think through the question for a moment. What amount of money could I deposit into your bank every January 1st (grossed up and cost of living built in) for the rest of your life, such that you don't even think about money anymore. Consider your family, your children, your children's children, etc. Is it a million dollars?, $5 million? Get crazy and think about the life you want to live. Do you want yachts, jets, multiple homes, etc. - OK, let's make it easy and just say $100 million is the number. Whoa! That's a ton of cash! $100 million EVERY year for the rest of your life! I'm going to assume that most people will not worry about finances with that type of guaranteed annual income. Here is the real question, what do you want to do with your life January 2nd?

Here's what I've learned about success so far. When you strip away all the surface answers to what people want and how they want to live their lives, it comes down to two very simple things. People want to be HAPPY and they want to AVOID SUFFERING. (In fact that truth applies to all living things, including your dog, cat, fish, etc.) People often answer with some type of purpose, religious, moral, volunteer, etc. response, but if you dig deep enough it all boils down to being happy and avoiding suffering. And what I've witnessed is the people that are truly the happiest in life are the ones that, consciously or even inadvertently, have woven their answer to the question above into life somehow already.

I leave you with one request. Spend time really thinking about 'what would you do if money didn't matter?' and work to incorporate that into your life right now. Here's the truth, you can reach ANY goal you have, if you work really hard, have passion, and stay focused. Just be careful that the goal isn't solely a financial one. You will be disappointed when you reach it. You'll be standing at your perceived 'finish line' wondering what to do next...?